What's the Big Idea? In Architecture, It's the Parti Pris

The term”parti pris,” generally abbreviated to”parti,” literally translates as”passing point,” however in architect lingo it often refers to the project layout’s big idea. It signifies an architect’s entire guiding idea for a design. As such, a parti generally has less to do with technical, fiscal and technical issues and much more to do with perspective, massing, scale, transparency, opaqueness and other architectural problems. While not every design starts with a parti pris, it’s typically better as it does. The overall guiding idea, or passing point, can strengthen the last result, as the design won’t become confused.

An architect will generally tell you up front what the parti is to get the design. If not, be certain to ask. It is one way of earning certain that you and your architect are on the same page as you work together to create the house of your dreams.

By the way, the term, which is French, probably originated in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the 19th-century French architecture college.

Yamamar layout

The parti pris, or large concept, could be on the home becoming translucent and framing viewpoints. A horizontally composed linear band draws the eye in this one, even though a vertical totem arrests which motion. The architectural idea is to control sight lines and highlight the stunning view.

Scott Allen Architecture

Scott Allen Architecture

Perhaps the large idea is to get the home”disappear” in the entry side (this photo), seemingly hiding at a park-like setting so that it can be a party of light and transparency in the water’s-edge side (previous photograph ).

Kristina Wolf Design

Perhaps the large idea is to reestablish an old firehouse, breathing new life and another use into the structure. A desire to retain remnants of this original use would surely qualify as a passing point for the overall design.

Elliott + Elliott Architecture

Perhaps the large idea is to create a set of little houses, each with its own function yet grouped together to make a family room. Such a parti yields a very different house than just one where each of the functions are gathered under one roof.

Torsten Ottesjö

Perhaps the large idea is to be little and anything but standard.

Demerly Architects

Perhaps the large idea is to respect a component of the context whilst trying to accomplish something entirely modern. While the form this is of a classic gabled roof home as a child would draw it, the overall effect is just one of modernity.

Perhaps the significant idea is in how the floor plan is composed. An L-shaped plan which creates different public and private legs that open to exactly the same terrace provides the passing point for your own design.

Tell us What big idea would you love to utilize for your house?

More: 8 Things Successful Architects and Designers Do

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